171. 9.30am. Top deck, halfway down on the left.
A group of schoolboys clambered up the stairs and flopped down around me. They were loud and expansive in their banter, joking about how they were late for school because ‘someone’ had to stop at McDonald’s.
‘I can’t deny it,’ acknowledged a boy with half a Big Mac in his hand.
They fell about laughing. They decided they needed to get their story straight, which triggered off a whole new run of jokes. I sat amongst them, soaking up the warmth of their schoolboyish friendship, ducking the odd flailing arm.
The boys got off the bus at Holborn. Seconds later I saw them bump into their teacher, who was coming out of Sainsbury’s loaded down with shopping bags. They transformed instantly into charming courtiers, offering to carry her bags and practically sweeping her off her feet. Not even the teacher, who knew what time it was, could stop herself from smiling.